Ludvig Puusepp, an Estonian scientist, is regarded as the world’s first professor of neurosurgery. He studied neurology in Russia under the tutelage of eminent neurologists, eventually becoming a professor of neuropathology and a pioneer in brain and nervous system surgery. He is remembered as a visionary ahead of his time, a researcher who not only advanced his field but also laid the groundwork for generations of advancements in the treatment of spinal and brain diseases and injuries. He worked and studied despite intense poverty, family illness, international economic depression, the Russian Revolution, and several wars in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Europe. He lectured at medical schools throughout Europe as a professor of neurology and neurosurgery, educating dozens of future specialists. Doctors continue to use the diagnostic tools he pioneered, such as identifying a slight abnormality in the movement of the little toe as a sign of a neurological disorder. He was an enthusiastic participant in the exchange of scientific knowledge, publishing extensively in peer-reviewed journals and capitalizing on global innovations, including those in neuroimaging. He toured Europe, demonstrating his abilities and establishing the legitimacy of medical research and surgery during an era when quack scientists continued to undermine health advancements.
Childhood & Adolescence
Puusepp was born in Kiev on December 3, 1875, to an Estonian father and a Polish-Czech mother. He was raised in a working-class family. His father was self-employed as a shoemaker.
He was admitted to the German School at the age of eight and completed three years of study in two years, despite being one of the youngest students.
After earning a scholarship to an elite secondary school, he tutored to supplement his family’s income when his father became unable to work. He did, however, graduate with high honors.
From 1894 to 1899, he attended the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy. While in medical school, he trained with Professor Vladimir Bechterew, a renowned Russian neurologist. Under Bechterew’s tutelage, he developed an appreciation for the flaws in modern neurosurgery. He performed his first neurological surgery in 1899.
Career of Ludvid
Puusepp taught in a school affiliated with the Baltic Shipyards following his graduation from medical school. They sent him to Vienna, Paris, Berlin, London, and Copenhagen in 1900 to learn how to use light therapy. During this time period, he became an outspoken and active member of several European medical societies.
In 1902, he successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, “Cerebral Centers Regulating Penis Erection and Ejaculation.” Numerous early works concern sexual function and dysfunction, as well as the effects and causes of alcoholism.
During the Ruso-Japanese War of 1904-1905, he became a senior physician for the Russian Red Cross Flying Squad, supervising the care of up to 600 wounded at a time. He invented a cart capable of transporting three wounded men at a time and received numerous military and Red Cross medals.
In 1909, he traveled to the United States to study women’s medical education. He wrote to acquaintances that he now believed women could work in medicine and science on an equal footing with men.
In 1910, he was appointed the world’s first professor of neurosurgery at the Institute of Psychoneurology in St. Petersburg.
In 1915, following an injury sustained on the battlefield during World War I, he returned to the Institute of Psychoneurology. He then published several articles on the neurological effects of combat service and injury.
He relocated to Estonia in 1920 and was appointed Professor of Neurology at Tartu University as well as Medical Major General and Consultant to the Estonian army.
In 1921, he performed Estonia’s first brain tumor operation. In the 1920s and 1930s, he joined several eugenics and mental hygiene organizations, advocating for research into the genetic causes of retardation and the establishment of schools for mentally disabled children.
Patients traveled from all over Europe to be treated at the university under his care. He developed the most significant innovations in neurosurgery during his tenure at the University of Tartu, including surgical techniques for the brain cavity, treatment of brain tumors, and the diagnosis of neurological disorders via nerve stimulation.
Significant Works Ludvig
Puusepp’s 1916 article равматиeски невро военноо времени (“Traumatic War Neurosis”) was among the earliest scientific investigations into the diagnosis and treatment of combat-related neurological injuries.
For decades, his 1929 textbook, Die Tumoren des Gehirns (Brain Tumors), served as a foundation for understanding brain tumors.
Between 1932 and 1939, he completed a two-and-a-half volume textbook Die chirurgische Neuropathologie (Surgical Neuropathology), which is still used as a reference today and contains the first detailed description of how to treat compressed intervertebral discs via surgery.
Awards and Accomplishments
In 1922, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Padua, Italy. In 1929, the University of Vilnius, Lithuania, bestowed upon him an honorary doctorate.
In 1938, he was elected a Charter Member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences. The French Academy of Surgery elected him as a corresponding member. In 1940, the Soviet Union named him a ‘Merited Scientist.’
Personal History and Legacies
In 1906, Puusepp married Maria Kotubei. They left the Soviet Union together in 1920, fearful that it was becoming an unsafe environment for scientists. In 1929, his wife died of tuberculosis.
Later in life, he married Maria Küppar. Liivia, their only child, was born in 1932. Additionally, she trained as a neurosurgeon.
He died in 1942 of stomach carcinoma and is buried in Tartu, Estonia’s Raadi cemetery. He is widely regarded as a national hero in Estonia.
In 1982, a granite and bronze monument was erected in his honor in Tartu, and the current location of the University of Tartu’s clinic of neurology and neurosurgery is on Ludvig Puusepp Street.
Estimated Net Worth
Ludvig is one of the wealthiest physicians and is ranked among the most popular physicians. Ludvig Puusepp’s net worth is estimated to be between $1-5 million, based on our analysis of Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
While in medical school, he trained with renowned professional wrestlers who believed that if medicine did not work out, he could have a successful career in wrestling.
In Estonian, his surname translates as “carpenter.” He was an ardent social reformer throughout his adulthood, founding several temperance and anti-drug societies.